A heritage building that once served as a bustling school is one step closer to becoming a revamped housing development.
On June 11, Township council gave first and second reading to Lanstone Homes’ proposal to turn the five-acre Murrayville Elementary School property at 21812 48 Ave. into 54 homes.
Coun. Petrina Arnason was opposed. Councillors Kim Richter and Bob Long were absent.
The proposal includes restoring the original, historic portion of the elementary school and locating six residential units inside, as well as building an additional 48 townhouses on the remainder of the property.
Murrayville Elementary School, originally called Belmont Superior School, was built in the early 1900s at at time of rapid development in Murrayville, a report to council says.
It started as a two-room schoolhouse for all grades in 1911, and was expanded to four rooms in 1913. In 1922, high school classes were moved to a new location, and the school assumed the name Murrayville Elementary.
“Later additions were made to the school during the 1960s and 1970s, and again in 1992, and by the time it was decommissioned in 2004, the school had grown to nine classrooms, a gym, library, two kindergarten rooms, two special education rooms and a computer room,” the report states.
Lanstone Homes purchased the land from the Langley School District in 2016. The empty buildings have since been used for filming and RCMP training.
As part of the housing plan, the Murrayville Elementary School and Belmont School oak tress will be protected heritage property within the Murrayville Heritage Conservation Area.
The Township also requires that the school’s parking lot, which serves as parking for the adjacent Denny Ross Memorial Park, be relocated onto the park property.
That plan created some controversy last fall, when it was revealed that the parking lot would be moved to the passive greenspace at the south end of the park. Residents protested by hanging up yellow tape and signs until the developer and Township agreed to find a new location. Just where that location is, however, has yet to be released.
As part of that process, on Monday night, council adopted an amendment by Coun. Angie Quaale that prohibits the parking lot from being located at the southeast corner of Denny Ross Park.
Arnason cast the lone vote again the amendment as she felt the entire proposal should be referred back to staff until a suitable location is found. Her referral failed with only one other councillor, David Davis, in favour.
“I think it’s highly irregular from my perspective — I’ve only sat here for three and a bit years — but I have never seen an application come forward that’s taken a very integral part of the plan and have it as a secondary condition to this,” Arnason said.
“I think that due diligence requires that we find out where we are anticipating putting those cars, because I think if it was an easy fix, we would have done it already. And I don’t think it’s good planning to do it after the fact.”
Mayor Jack Froese said he heard a lot of concerns from residents about where the parking woould be, and believes Quaale's amendment helps to solve some of these issues.
Coun. Charlie Fox noted that there are several amenities in the park, like the baseball diamond and water pump house, that cannot be moved.
"Obviously there's a limited amount of space that they can use," he said. "Although I've seen a couple of conceptual opportunities, I'm sure that this could be resolved fairly quickly to the satisfaction of the homeowners and other park users."
Coun. Blair Whitmarsh noted that the development itself requires 119 parking stalls, and that 130 are being provided.
“I think the parking for the park, that’s a separate topic and I think it needs to be treated separately and not as part of the development as part of this particular proposal,” he said.
Quaale agreed with Whitmarsh, and noted there is also a First Nations memorial in the park that will have to be considered.
"There's a lot of moving parts in there and I think...if it went where the play structure is right now, that would give a really good opportunity for an upgrade of the play structure."